('76 Contributor) American revolutionary Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” This month, furious mobs throughout the Islamic world decree death, a sentence they imposed on four Americans in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens — the first U.S. ambassador murdered in the line of duty since 1979. Before buying the spin that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video, Think Again. According to Libyan President Mohamed Magarief, the video had “nothing to do with” the premeditated terrorist attack. Conducted on the anniversary of 9/11 in order to “carry a certain message,” the Benghazi attack and violent anti-American rioting elsewhere reflect the ascendency of radical Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring. By attributing unrest to false pretexts — not violent jihadists seeking to impose their totalitarian ideology — we incentivize further cycles of violence and legitimize the Islamists' tactics.As former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani explains, “Protests orchestrated on the pretext of slights and offenses against Islam have been part of Islamist strategy for decades.” Rather than condemn real victimization and powerlessness — like the Assad regime's slaughter of 20,000 Syrians; Saudi persecution of women, homosexuals and religious minorities; or the Taliban who spray schoolgoing Afghan girls with acid — Islamists stoke anti-Americanism and spread anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hate speech to consolidate power and distract “from societal, political and economic failures.” But if these failures are the root cause of Islamic rage, shouldn't we encourage the Islamic world to adopt the civil and economic liberties that are prerequisites for a humane society? If mutual respect is the goal, shouldn't American leaders denounce Islamic intolerance and stop bragging about Osama bin Laden's assassination? Despite recent foreign policies designed to promote American popularity and mutual respect — engagement, “resets” and “leading from behind” — America is still the “Great Satan” to Israel's “Little Satan,” and contradictions and questions abound. Yes, bin Laden is dead, but so is Stevens, whose diary reveals worries about diplomatic security and assassination. As the 9/11 anniversary approached, why weren't extraordinary precautions taken? Throughout the Arab Spring, America supported rebels in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen — sites of the worst anti-American rioting this month — but didn't secure power-sharing commitments to prevent Islamist domination. Having supported regime change in these countries, why didn't America support revolutionaries in Iran or its client Syria, both of which pose graver security threats to U.S. and global interests, never mind Middle East stability?As Iran's nuclear-weapons program nears completion, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised on Monday that Israel would be “eliminated.” Rather than characterize these existential threats to Israel as mere “noise,” shouldn't we “affirm America's dedication to blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions through military force if necessary,” as Alan Dershowitz encourages?Though opposed by our commanders in Afghanistan, America's military surge was precipitously undermined by a fixed timetable for withdrawal, giving the Taliban and terrorist organizations a date certain by which they could resume operations. But why commit U.S. forces to a conflict using tactics our military believes will undermine our mission? Compounding the uncertainty and heightening suspicions were assurances (caught on an open mic last spring) given to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by President Obama that he'd have “more flexibility” after the election. Being no longer subject to electoral accountability grants flexibility to do what beyond the already canceled missile-defense system our Polish and Czech allies had agreed to host? Rarely has America exhibited such uncertainty and equivocation nor diverged so dramatically from the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus forged over the past century. President Reagan called it “peace through strength,” and President Kennedy encapsulated it eloquently in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” America's capacity to project this authority and secure our interests around the world is predicated on strength at home. Yet unable to live within our means and more indebted than any other nation in the history of the world, we've mortgaged our children's futures and jeopardized control over our destiny. At this critical moment, we must reclaim the America that inspires others to follow our lead.As a refugee from Nazi Germany, Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” Americans have always been a people willing to do “something about” evil. If we're to continue, we must stand our ground in defense of our values. Think Again — without America as a bulwark of liberty, how will the Islamic world ever come to embrace freedom and modernity?Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. Thie is from her Aspen Times column, which runs every other Thursday. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. You can reach Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington D.C. – Monday, May 14th CCU students gathered on the top floor of the American Enterprise Institute. The room could almost be mistaken for a combat command room thanks to AEI scholars leading students into a military simulation of the March 2002 Operation Anaconda during the Afghanistan war. The operation lasted several days and resulted in a Coalition victory with nearly 100 casualties and 500-800 Taliban killed.
Students were tasked with roll playing key persons in the U.S. attack. At the end of the simulation students were asked a very straightforward question “was this mission a success?” The majority of students seemed to think that the mission was not a success due to confusion and the loss of U.S. soldiers in battle. Now it is clear that, having gone through the simulation, aspects of the operation were not handled properly and that mistakes were made; but is it unreasonable for us to look at a battle where fifteen Coalition lives were lost en route to disbanding the largest gathering of Taliban and killing 500-800 enemy fighters? I think so.
We are at a strange time. With great advancements in technology we are made to think that anything is possible and in an arena where human lives are on the line we are hesitant to accept any loss. But this is still war and the men who fight for this country believe that there are certain things worth dying for. I believe we all should take such a noble stance and honor their sacrifices and acknowledge the great victory of this battle. Of course I pray that no life is needlessly lost, but I will not look on this battle as a loss.
For the information given to students by AEI click here.
('76 Contributor) According to news reports, the Obama reelection campaign will take the offensive against likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney on matters of national security. It's an unusual ploy for any Democrat seeking the White House, and one utterly unsupported by the evidence in this case. Let's look at the record.
On January 20, 2009, President Barack H. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. "Joe" Biden, Jr. were sworn into office. They brought with them an ambiguous philosophy and a set of policies seemingly designed to make America weaker, less competitive, and less hopeful. It would appear they were determined to:
Tear down and diminish our Armed Forces and our alliances to render them unable to meet the threats of the 21st century. Lower standards in education and prevent accountability to public schools so that more children in America are left behind.
Raise taxes and block the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens.
Weaken America’s “armies of compassion” by opposing faith-based and community groups.
Provide diminished support for America’s veterans and our Armed Forces.
Embrace the twin temptations of isolationism and protectionism by engaging the world with uncertainty and hindering free trade.
Hamper America’s innovative spirit to develop new energy technologies, increase our dependence on foreign oil, and thwart continued development of our traditional energy resources-coal, natural gas, and oil.
Damage our health care system, and make health care less affordable and less accessible for fewer Americans.
Foster a culture of death and to disavow in law the dignity of every human life.
Appoint judges who legislate from the bench and who do not respect our Constitution and laws.
Avoiding seemingly intractable challenges such as reforming our immigration system and Social Security.
Over the past three years, President Obama and his Administration have “worked” to meet these pledges. President Obama Bush also has shown repeatedly that he is unable to adapt to unex-pected crises. The greatest of these was the Fort Hood Massacre in November 2009. This was a mass shooting that took place at Fort Hood, the most heavily populated U.S. military installation in the world, located just outside Killeen, Texas. During the course of the shooting, a single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. It is the worst shooting ever to take place on an American military base. The shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist and Palestinian-American, was influenced by the radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in late September 2009. In the months leading up to the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, al-Awlaki and Hasan exchanged as many as 20 e-mails and al-Awlaki considered Hasan to be a hero.
In December 2011, during a joint session of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committee, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) referenced a letter from the Defense Department depicting the Fort Hood Massacre as nothing more than workplace violence. Sen. Collins also criticized the Obama Administration for failing to identify the threat as radical Islam. Furthermore, President Obama responded to the Fort Hood Massacre with a timid strategy to protect the American people. Instead of strengthening our homeland security, he reorganized the government in a questionable manner and weakened our defenses at home. He failed to rally allies to confront terrorists and their state sponsors abroad. And in 2009, he launched a historic Apology Tour which led to the Arab Spring of 2011 and a new era of tyranny and terror, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa.
Overall, when it comes to fighting the global war on terror, President Obama fails to understand that we are a nation at war, preferring instead to treat terrorism as a nothing more than a law enforcement matter instead of the extremely grave national security threat that it is. Less than a month after the Fort Hood Massacre there was the attempted 2009 Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound for Detroit International Airport. The Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to bring down the flight with an improvised explosive. Thankfully, however, the device ultimately failed to detonate. Shortly after the Christmas Day attack took place, President Obama described Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist.” In addition, then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs asserted that the Nigerian bomber provided “usable” and “actionable” intelligence to American officials after his capture.
Time and again, President Obama and his national security team have failed to understand the intricacies of the global war on terror. Instead of trying terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in military tribunals, President Obama had committed to trying radical Islamic terrorists in civilian federal courts that will hinder federal prosecutors and limit the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to gather critical intelligence. Over the past three years, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano calls the acts of terrorism that have taken place since 2009 “man-caused” disasters. In short, President Obama and his national security team should take the time to come to terms with the fact that this truly is a war on terrorism.
In conclusion, History will record that the 44th President avoided tough problems, so as to pass them on to future generations. He primarily based his decision-making on popularity or opinion polls. His charge, we must conclude, was to undermine the honor and dignity of the office entrusted to him by the American people and to leave America worse off than what was left to him by his predecessor. And that is a charge he kept - Keeping America Unsafe.
(CCU Faculty) Law professor Ann Althouse recently posed a good question on her blog: "Obama says: 'Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power… You’ve seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people.' Note the implicit statement that the dictator once had legitimacy. Why would Obama think that?"
This question is one that I recently asked students in my Comparative Government class. What determines a regime’s legitimacy? Much of the field of comparative government equates legitimacy with survival. David Easton, one of the leading authorities in the field of comparative government, developed a model for comparing and contrasting different forms of government. Easton’s model suggests that the key to a regimes survival is the manipulation and balancing of the citizens’ support for their government as well as adequately satisfying the demands made against it. How a government does this is not as important as its ability to do so. Maintaining this balance ensures survival, which in turn confers legitimacy according to Easton and apparently according to President Obama.
Take the case of North Korea: Kim Jong Il assumed office in 1993. Since that time he has indeed successfully manipulated and balanced the supports and demands of his citizenry. He has of course done this by brutal force, by suppressing the legitimate demands of his people, while at the same time brainwashing and indoctrinating them into a fanatical religious-like support for him. If we study North Korea using Easton’s model, Kim Jong Il is indeed legitimate in that he has successfully stayed in power for 18 years.
Colonel Qaddafi has stayed in power, as well, governing through brute force and terror for 42 years. But is his rule legitimate?
In 1776, the American Revolution was centered on the question of what constitutes legitimate government. Jefferson famously penned: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The legitimacy of the revolution, the separation from England, and the assumption of their God-given self governing powers, was contrasted by the illegitimacy of the rule by the King. The concluding paragraph of the Declaration states: “We, therefore… appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states….” The Declaration claimed for the American people their legitimate authority to govern themselves.
Can a people ruled by tyranny truly be said to be ruled by a legitimate form of government? President Obama seems to think so. This puts him at odds with the Declaration of Independence, the American Founders, and the central theme that unites all Americans: devotion to the principle of human equality and legitimate self government.
(CCU Student & Centennial Intern) From the American armchair, Israel looks rather lonely. She is the only democracy amongst a host of dutiful, patriarchal Arab nations. With death threats, weak peace treaties, and a rising pile of Israel-condemning resolutions coming from all parts of the United Nations, things look bleak for the tiny nation state of Israel. Much of the turmoil stems from the poor international opinion of nearly everything Israel does. For example, take a look at the Goldstone Report (circa 2009). The findings of the report condemn the Israeli military’s Operation Cast-Lead, which took place in the Gaza Strip. An operation designed to take aim at Hamas terror sites, specifically safe houses containing known leaders and weapon caches, places and people responsible for ceaseless rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians. All the target areas featured a dense population to discourage Israeli retaliation, and because of the Israeli’s respect of innocent civilians, the Israeli military repeatedly sabotaged the effectiveness of their operation by pre-attack-leafleting target areas to warn civilians off and even canceling high priority strikes when innocent noncombatants were found in the target zone. This can only be construed as the utmost respect for human life, even at the expense of the security of the Israeli state.Of course, the United States supports Israel along with a host of other nations through foreign aid bills passed by congress every year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States’s veto power has been used time and time again to cripple libelous anti-Semitic resolutions before they could reach the light of day. The U.S. has even been proactive, and through U.S. sanctions levied at the energy segment of Iran’s economy there has been a de-facto halting of Iran’s nuclear project, which assuredly seeks to level Israel. Even the through the myriad of bombings and other attacks, the U.S. has attempted to host peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Yet, none of these seems to wield enough power to right the sinking ship that is Israeli-world relations.Before the cry goes out to look for the lifeboats, there have been some new developments to the world scene, and quite possibly, they may turn the tidal swells into a more favorable current. Of all the unlikely countries, Russia has taken a timid step towards the pro Israel camp, or at least neutrality. Recent arms deals between both France and Russia, and Israel and Russia have convinced Russia to break off a deal to sell the S300 missile system to Iranian buyers. Among other things the Iranian oil sector though crude rich, lacks desperately on refining capacity. With Iran relying on outside sources for over seventy-five percent of its refined petroleum products. Though the U.S. has made divestments, the Iranians have still be receiving oil from Russia, China, and other parts of Asia. With the arms deal and other political maneuverings, Russia has further decided to cut their refinement and resale of petroleum products to Iran by over fifty-percent. All of this comes in the wake of Russia’s budding relationship with Israel, who is beginning to prove helpful in rebuilding the Russian infrastructure. By nature of Israel’s status as a startup nation, the small country has proven to be explosively successful and their Russian neighbors long for a dollop of that success.This may not be a blatantly marked or even reported victory, but in the complex web of relations and stability in the east this small transition makes a marked difference. First France, though already feisty, seems to have finally plunged into a more active role in precluding the international abhorrence of Israel. Second, and more importantly, the Russians may not love Israel, yet, but they see the potential good from keeping them around on the world stage. Third, the U.S. for all its blustering and single handed goodness can’t expect to be the sole force for Israel’s protection. And furthermore the U.S. must continue to protect Israel as the only stable, free, capitalistic, democratic state in the mid east.
(Centennial Student Intern) The past few days, with CCU sophomore Drew Goorabian, I have had the distinct pleasure of making a brief pre-Christmas stop in the frozen swamp that is Washington D.C. in the winter. AIPAC or the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee has been both our motivation and gracious host for this trip bringing Drew and me to D.C. to attend the biannual Saban Leadership Seminar.
It is quite noteworthy to understand the prevalence of AIPAC as one of America’s most influential political lobbies. AIPAC is better known as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” and one of the top five most powerful lobbies in the country ranking alongside the AARP and NRA in lobbing effectiveness, all quite a feat in consideration of their smaller size and lesser funding. It is events like the Saban Leadership Seminar that have boosted AIPAC into their top 5 position. The impact is twofold: first, Saban reaches out to educate and empower over 400 of the top students from a mass of colleges across the country, and second, those same students then go out and educate and impact the rest of the country.
Over the past three days, we’ve sat through a myriad of sessions with subjects ranging from international affairs briefings to the etiquette and best practices of lobbying one’s representative. The point being to educate and motivate the next generation of Americans on how to be proactive citizens geared towards making a positive impact on the world.
Below: Lenell, right, and Goorabian paid a call at the White House on Sunday, but Obama refused to see them
Poor Bubba. Not only is he exposed as Obama’s messenger boy in the sleazy Sestak affair, but now friends report he is absolutely livid over the devastating portrayal of him in the new HBO drama “The Special Relationship” in which Dennis Quaid’s spot on Clinton tries hiding behind every international institution- U.N., NATO, EU – to avoid a decision on the Kosovo genocide until he is shamed into action by a decisive and principled Tony Blair.
This fact based revelation of Clinton’s proclivity for appeasing dictators- in this case the murderous Serbian Milosovic- eerily parallels Jimmy Carter’s contemplated sell-out of West German and South Korean freedom in response to rampant Soviet aggressiveness until a leaked White House document (Presidential Review Memorandum-10) caused a Congressional uproar that sent Peanut Man ducking for cover.
Clinton and Carter however were minor leaguers compared to their ideological descendent Barack Obama who has taken appeasement to unimagined new heights. Just a glance at current headlines suggests just how much damage this multitasking appeaser can do in a very short time.
Iran – Americans were incredulous when Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad arrogantly announced he would no longer discuss his nuclear program until the United States agreed to discuss giving up its own nuclear weapons. Now just a few months later the United States voted with Iran to hold a United Nations conference on a “Nuclear Free Middle East”. The wording of the resolution however makes clear that the real problem is not Iran getting nuclear weapons but Israel having them.
Korea – When a North Korean submarine sent forty-six South Korean sailors to a watery grave the United States promptly demanded that “something be done” – by someone else. Hillary Clinton spoke ominously of a “possible U.N. resolution” and swiftly high tailed it to Beijing to petition the Chinese for help. China as is their recent habit simply said “No” and declared that things should be resolved by the two Koreas “without outside interference”. Happy to cede this wobbly stage to Hillary, Obama much preferred acting tough with British Petroleum than with North Korea’s lunatic dictator Kim Jong-Il.
Mexico – Just so we won’t think Obama only apologizes for the U.S. when abroad, he stood beside visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House and decried Arizona’s “misguided” illegal alien control law. To add insult to injury Calderon the next day had the temerity to stand before a joint session of the U.S. Congress and add his own denunciation of Arizona while omitting to mention Mexico’s far more draconian treatment of illegal aliens. For this shocking breach of diplomatic protocol Calderon received a standing ovation from Democratic lawmakers.
To round out the picture that same week Assistant Secretary of State Richard Posner- former head of an Open Borders advocacy group- told visiting Chinese officials that “abuses” like the Arizona law demonstrated that China wasn’t the only country guilty of human rights violations.
Syria – Touting the virtues of “engagement” with this charter member of the “Axis of Evil” Obama appointed a U.S, Ambassador to Damascus for the first time in five years at the very same time Syrian dictator Bashar Assad was busy shipping advanced rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv to the Lebanese terrorists of Hezbollah.
Israel – As if the above item wasn’t enough to justify Israeli citizens booing Rahm Emanual in Jerusalem just days later when a Hamas affiliate in a purposeful provocation attempted to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza Obama promptly expressed his “regrets” and joined the usual leftist suspects at the U.N. in calling for an investigation.
What’s next- a joint Obama-Chavez family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard? What will it take to make the mainstream media see that for Obama and the Democrats “engagement” is simply a synonym for “appeasement”? Is it not obvious that this serial apologizing and appeasing has gained us absolutely nothing by way of gratitude or cooperation, but has instead earned us what such weakness has always merited: contempt and ever bolder provocations?
Americans, however, should not view this sorry record as random blundering, or simple incompetence. What we are seeing is a consistent, carefully thought out realization of a long held Progressive/Liberal vision of the way the world ought to be: All global problems- legal, political, or military- should be handled in a collectivist manner by the long yearned for World Government. Liberals have long understood that reasons of short term political safety precluded openly advocating this vision, but any objective analysis of the historical and intellectual underpinnings of the Progressive Movement show that such is their goal.
In keeping with this vision, Progressives have always given the highest priority to the “transformation” ( a favorite Obama word) of American society as a necessary precondition for the New World Order. The United States historically as a sovereign independent country pursuing its own national interests is seen as a Bad Thing – spawn of war, racism, imperialism etc- and a major obstacle to the evolution of the Better World to Come.
Thus appeasement abroad is no more an aberration than the entire Obama domestic program of fast-tracking America toward dramatically expanded government, ever shrinking private sector, wealth redistribution, and the conversion of the population from freedom loving entrepreneurial individuals into a collectivist mass of dependents.
Recall those words of long ago: “None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See."
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner (1997-2007). Hiss columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Human Events.
In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt realized that U.S. leadership and power were the indispensable elements in any acceptable world order and with extraordinary skill and courage overcame the forces of isolationism in his own country and moved America to the forefront of the titanic struggle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Ever since then the United States has accepted its role as the world’s principal champion of freedom and chief guarantor of international stability. In pursuing this mission the United States has made many mistakes both large and small, but any credible historical analysis recognizes that on balance America has been the world’s greatest force for good throughout the period in question. There is however an alternative narrative originating in the left wing of the American and European political spectrum first coming to prominence in the Vietnam Era that sees the mistakes as far outweighing the good, and regarding the exercise of American power as a negative rather than a positive force in world affairs. For forty years this alternative narrative has been essentially a minority viewpoint able to carp and criticize but only rarely able to dominate the main thrust of American foreign policy. In the last fifteen months however this minority viewpoint has become the reigning orthodoxy of the regime now dominating both the Executive and Legislative branches of American government. Accordingly this ruling majority has boldly moved to reshape American foreign policy in ways consonant with its long held world view. Evidence steadily mounts that the broad theme of the New American Foreign Policy is best described as “Abuse your Friends, while Kow-Towing to your Enemies”. A major corollary of this policy is that America makes concessions to its enemies in return for nothing, while demanding that our friends also grant concessions to their enemies in return for nothing. A further theme is making serial apologies for imagined American arrogance and misuse of power while blithely ignoring the very real transgressions of our enemies. The background music to all of this is endless talk from an Administration that believes no world problem is so great that it cannot be solved by yet one more speech by President Obama. For some specifics in this indictment, let us first look at how we have been treating our friends. Poland and the Czech Republic- After both at considerable risk to themselves agreed to SDI installations on their soil despite Russian bluster and bullying, the U.S. on the flimsiest excuse abruptly cancelled the whole project.
Israel - While West Bank settlement freezes have never been a precondition of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, on Day One the Obama Administration made that demand, while asking no similar up front concession from the Palestinians. When Netanyahu refused what no Israeli Prime Minister could agree to, the U.S. began a serial campaign of very public sulking and petulant verbal abuse of our only ally in the volatile Middle East while at the same time signaling clearly that regarding the existential threat from Iran the only U.S. support for Israel would be empty rhetoric.
Iraq- The leaders of this fledgling democracy and their enemies see very clearly that the overriding imperative of the new Democratic Administration is rapid withdrawal. They know that U.S. caveats about “conditions on the ground” and residual “technical advisors” are a very small counterweight to the obsessions of Obama’s political base.
Britain- Secretary Clinton’s public pressure on Britain to open talks with Argentina regarding the Falkland Islands- heretofore a settled matter of international law- was a stunning slap in the face to the one great power that has consistently expended its blood and treasure on foreign battlefields in support of U.S. Troops.
Afghanistan- Brought to power by Americans who valued his inclusiveness President Karzai within the last year has been subjected to a steady barrage of public pressure, threats, and insults regarding corruption, electoral practices, and military performance. Karzai who faces daily risk of assassination because of his association with Americans, must increasingly see the U.S. as a distant power that entered his country without invitation in pursuit of its own interests, suffered far fewer casualties than the Afghan army, and now has loudly announced that its soldiers will begin leaving in July. Like his Iraqi counterparts Karzai regards the Obama administration as of most dubious reliability and cannot be blamed for recognizing that he must deal seriously with those who aren’t leaving i.e. Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban. In contrast to this back of the hand treatment of our friends, the Obama administration has bent over backwards to be generous to our opponents. Principal examples to date include:
China- Beijing has just said “No” to the U.S. on appreciating their currency, sanctioning Iran, curbing North Korea, reducing carbon emissions, promoting human rights, and moderating unfair trade practices, while undiplomatically giving us blistering lectures on Taiwan arms sales, meeting with the Dalai Lama, and our fiscal policies. The Obama Administration’s response has been an embarrassingly supine Presidential visit to China, delaying the Treasury report on currency manipulation, disrespecting the Dalai Lama, repeatedly announcing imagined “ signs of progress” ( a great conference call!), and an increasingly obvious willingness to settle for just about anything- however hollow- that could be portrayed as Chinese support for Iran sanctions.
Iran- The mullahs’ unrelenting march to nuclear weapons, brutal suppression of democratic opposition, sponsorship of murderous attacks on Israel, and continuing export of sophisticated weapons to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan has done little to curb the Obama administration’s feckless talk of “outreach” and “engagement” regarding Iran. The endless series of unmet “deadlines” concerning nuclear development does much to justify Teheran’s contemptuous mockery of U.S. resolve.
Russia- Moscow has followed up its victory on SDI by toying with the U.S. regarding Iranian sanctions while continuing to sell Teheran arms and technology for their “peaceful” nuclear projects. Similarly they have disingenuously partnered with China in frustrating U.S. efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The real stunner however is Russia’s success in persuading the U.S. to sign a nuclear arms treaty that will have no practical effect on Moscow’s decrepit nuclear arsenal but require significant reductions in American nuclear armaments. This treaty in tandem with the bizarre and baffling public announcement that future U.S. policy bans any use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states even if they attack us with biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction, overturns a fundamental American defense doctrine that for over sixty years has been absolutely central to world peace and stability. All of the above has greatly emboldened our enemies and certainly encourages them to push their new advantages even harder in the future. Conversely our friends are discouraged and alarmed. The emerging profile of the new American foreign policy is an amalgam of wrong-headed ideology, naiveté, and incompetence. When added to America’s domestic economic and political disarray, we see a United States weaker than at any time in living memory and most dangerously diminished as a force for international peace and stability. Reversing this deeply disturbing downward spiral will not be easy, and perhaps not even possible.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, U.S.A. Today, Washington Post, and Washington Times.
Twenty-seven years ago this week, speaking before a meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, on March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan spoke about the moral crisis that faced America. His topic ranged from a loss of morality in schools to the high rates of teen pregnancies and abortions.
In his speech, Reagan argued that the United States had been devoted to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the belief that our rights and liberties come from God the Creator. He went on to say that, while these truths had been adhered to throughout most of our nation’s history, in recent decades (largely through activist court decisions) a denial of these truths and a ban on invoking the Creator in the public square had become common.
Reagan knew full well that the devotion to God and His laws was essential in order for civil society to function well, saying: “There is sin and evil in the world, and we're enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might. Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal. The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past.” In essence, confronting evil with Biblical truth was and is the only way in which sin can be confronted.
Reagan next pointed to the longstanding conflict with the Soviet Union, and the pressure many were exerting onto his administration for the U.S. to lessen its opposition to the expansionist Soviet policies and to seek a reduction in nuclear arsenals as an overture for peace. Reagan responded that this proposal would weaken America’s moral authority. “So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”
The Soviet Union was a society based on the destruction of Biblical truths and replacing them with man as the central figure in society.
“Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness –pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Reagan’s condemnation of the “Evil Empire” brought handringing from many in the media and the left. Yet Reagan’s clarity of the situation: that both sides were not “equally wrong,” and that the fight was worth fighting, were both based on his clear understanding of the situation. The Soviet Empire was indeed evil, and thus needed to be confronted and ultimately defeated.
Review Essay on Lewis Sorley’s A Better War(Centennial Fellow) In the sixty-five years since the end of World War II the most significant and formative single event in American history- beyond any question- is the Vietnam War. It reshaped our domestic politics, foreign policy, military doctrines, and popular culture in ways that still resonate powerfully nearly two generations after it ended. The Vietnam War was waged not just in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia but also in the streets and campuses of the American homeland. It divided families and regions in a manner not seen since the Civil War. It shattered the Great American Consensus that was forged in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and that had endured through the first half of the Cold War. Millions of Americans viewed opposition to the war as high idealism, while millions more saw it as bordering on treason. Politically the Vietnam War ultimately entirely captured the Democratic Party and profoundly influenced the Republican Party. Every military conflict involving U.S. forces since has evoked dire warnings about “another Vietnam”. A recent Newsweek cover story labeled Afghanistan “Obama’s Vietnam”. Our national conversation on foreign policy repeatedly invokes warnings against failure to heed the “lessons of Vietnam”. What are the “lessons of Vietnam”? The received wisdom that has become embedded in our national consciousness rests principally on three ”truths” : 1. The war was “unwinnable” from the start; 2. Vietnam was a “war of national liberation” in which the Viet Cong were legitimate representatives of the people; 3. The South Vietnamese government were essentially American “puppets” with no popular support or willingness to fight. Though the American phase of the war in Indochina lasted from 1960 to 1975 in the minds of most Americans the war ended in 1968. The “annus terriblus” of 1968 effected the most dramatic changes in American History since Pearl Harbor. The year began with the momentous “Tet Offensive” which thanks to television was graphically brought into nearly every American living room. What shocked Americans saw was not “light at the end of the tunnel” but a savagely determined enemy attacking virtually every corner of South Vietnam even including the American Embassy compound in Saigon. In short order following the perceived calamity of “Tet” the revered sage of America’s media Walter Cronkite declared the war a “stalemate” (“They won’t quit, and we can’t win”). Eugene McCarthy, and then Robert Kennedy entered the Democratic primaries on an anti-war platform intending to overthrow the sitting President of their own party, and with great suddenness the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson collapsed amidst the wreckage of his Vietnam policy. Additional high drama- King and Kennedy assassinations, race riots, Kids versus Cops in Chicago- punctuated a tumultuous presidential campaign in which both parties competed over who had the best plan to get out of Vietnam. After 1968 as President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy accelerated, American troops and casualties diminished rapidly, and media coverage of the war declined proportionately. America’s last memorable snapshot of Vietnam was of those desperate people clinging to the skids of the last helicopter lifting off the roof of the American Embassy as the victorious North Vietnamese overran the entire country. That event in 1975 seemed to put the final seal on the first “lost war” in U.S. History. Though there was little general interest at the time, and even less among subsequent historians the question remains: What happened during those final seven years and should it matter to us? All of which brings us to an examination of Lewis Sorley’s masterful history A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. First appearing in 1999 Sorley’s book received limited attention even though – or perhaps because- it seriously challenged the conventional wisdom regarding the “lost war”. Nonetheless, given its’ highly impressive research base- tapping heretofore untouched primary sources- and simple but compellingly argued thesis the book was respectfully reviewed even by traditionally liberal outlets such as the New York Times (“ a comprehensive and long overdue examination of the immediate post-Tet offensive years”) and the Washington Post (“the post-1968 war clearly deserves more attention and a more positive appraisal than most historians have given it. A Better War helps fill the gap.”) Foreign Affairs described the book as “Forcefully and convincingly argued… a provocative and important contribution to the history of the Vietnam War” and the Wall St. Journal noted that “the successes in 1968-72 period have disappeared down the memory hole. Lewis Sorley fills in those blanks with his important new book”. A Better War has received a new prominence in recent years because of its great relevance to the American challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan. David Ignatius of the Washington Post called it “the hot book among Iraq strategists” and noted its presence on the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad and in the speeches of Condoleezza Rice. A third generation graduate of West Point who also holds a doctorate in history form Johns Hopkins university, Lewis Sorley served as a tank commander in Vietnam and on staff at the Pentagon. He later was a senior civilian official at the Central Intelligence Agency, and since retirement has been the author of several well received military histories focusing on Vietnam. At its heart A Better War is about one horrible mistake that brought catastrophe to America and Vietnam, and one extraordinary man who heroically came very close to redeeming that mistake. The mistake was the appointment and sustaining of General William Westmoreland as supreme U.S. commander in Vietnam (1964-68). Westmoreland will go down in U.S. history as the most disastrous senior commander since George Mc Clellan led the Union armies in the Civil War. McClellan very nearly lost the Civil War for Abraham Lincoln. Westmoreland did lose the Vietnam War for Lyndon Johnson. Westmoreland was selected from a list of four senior generals submitted to Johnson in January 1964. He owed his appointment to a chance fortuitous encounter with John F. Kennedy and the behind the scenes machinations of General Maxwell Taylor. The three generals who were passed over all were advocates of and would have pursued a Vietnam strategy called “clear and hold”. Westmoreland thought differently. He inaugurated and for four years doggedly pursued a strategy called “search and destroy” predicated on the notion that if you killed enough enemy soldiers (hence the infamous “body counts”) they would eventually give up. To achieve this goal Westmoreland constantly asked for- and almost to the end always got- “more troops”. However even when he commanded over half a million men Westmoreland found that North Vietnam was replacing its soldiers even faster than he could kill them. The Tet Offensive was but the final and very public demonstration of the total bankruptcy of Westmoreland’s “search and destroy” strategy. David Halberstam’s classic The Best and the Brightest brilliantly chronicles this failure and the foolhardiness of the senior officials- L.B.J., McNamara, Taylor, etc.- who supported it. The bulk of Sorley’s book commences its account of the war at precisely the point where most American people and politicians had concluded that it was a lost cause. It revolves around that extraordinary man who came very close to retrieving the colossal blunders of Westmoreland and his superiors, and in fact very close to winning the “lost war” outright.That man was Creighton W. Abrams (1914-1974) who succeeded Westmoreland in 1968 and served four years as American commander in Vietnam. Though the war would be lost-not for military but for political reasons- after Abrams departure in 1972 his accomplishments during his four year tenure distinguish him as the greatest American commander since World War II.In 1944 the brilliant though egomaniacal General George Patton said “They say I am the best tank commander in the U.S. army, but I have one peer-Abe Abrams”. Building on his magnificent performance in the Battle of the Bulge which occasioned Patton’s high praise, Abrams served with distinction through twenty years, and in 1964 was one of the three men LBJ passed over to appoint Westmoreland.In mid 1968 Abrams succeeded Westmoreland and immediately implemented a dramatic change in both strategy and tactics. He abandoned “search and destroy” with its costly large unit sweeps through the remoter and thinly populated regions of Vietnam.Abrams decided to let the enemy come to him and fight him while protecting the Vietnamese people. Instead of the large unit actions where the enemy always knew what the Americans were up to and thus could always choose points of battle favorable to them, Abrams substituted constant “patrolling” by large numbers of small units (5 to 10 men) that continually probed the countryside gathering intelligence from local people, and destroying enemy supply caches and generally disrupting the foe’s movements before he could concentrate.Tet had been a propaganda triumph for the communists but a military disaster. The price they paid was the near total destruction of the indigenous Viet Cong. Thereafter-as Abrams knew-all enemy soldiers and supplies had to come from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia via the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Accordingly Abrams gave high priority to sharply upgrading both human and electronic intelligence so that soon Americans knew in great detail the movements of the thousands of Chinese and Russian made trucks ferrying men and supplies from North Vietnam. After 1968 the sharply increased volume and accuracy of American precision bombing at all junction points along the Ho Chi Minh Trail had devastating effect on North Vietnam’s ability to sustain its war effort.Very soon after the 1968 U.S. Presidential election Abrams knew that Richard Nixon’s plan for Vietnam involved a responsible but rapid draw-down of the 543,000 American soldiers under his command. Thus in Abrams view he had a specific “window of opportunity” to win the war- always his main objective- and hand over responsibility for the security of the country to a South Vietnamese government and military that could successfully maintain it at the very same time his army was heading home. (Does anyone doubt how closely Generals Petraeus and McChrystal read this book?)Westmoreland had essentially decided that Americans could win without much help from the South Vietnamese to whom he gave inadequate support and less respect. Abrams took the opposite approach. He knew that in the end the South Vietnamese would have to do the job without much help from the Americans. Accordingly he sought to gain their trust by offering a full measure of support and respect.In pursuing his tasks Abrams was fortunate to gain two extraordinary partners within the same year he arrived.Ellsworth Bunker, a courtly low-key septuagenarian international businessman turned diplomat replaced the often overbearing and manipulative Maxwell Taylor as U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam and rapidly built a trusting and respectful relationship with the country’s President Nguyen Van Thieu.Soon after taking command Abrams fired Robert Komer, the erratic and arrogant head of the rural pacification program and replaced him with the highly talented William Colby, a career CIA officer who would later head that Agency. Colby entirely reconstituted the pacification and strategic hamlet program and launched Operation Phoenix which rooted out the Viet Cong’s “shadow government” and in close cooperation with President Thieu swiftly spread an umbrella of security, support, and land redistribution throughout South Vietnam’s countryside.Together for four years this highly simpatico trio gave the American effort in Vietnam a cohesion, energy, imagination, and deep sense of mission that had been entirely lacking in the Westmoreland era.Central to their achievement was the vital growth of the popularity, effectiveness, and military capacity of the South Vietnamese government as it gradually and successfully took up the daunting challenge of standing on its own in the wake of the rapidly accelerating American troop withdrawals.By 1971 Ambassador Bunker could report his ability to travel throughout the countryside in an unescorted open Jeep- always wearing his signature suit and tie –for days without seeing any evidence of communist activity, and he also reported that the million plus residents of Saigon “enjoyed a higher level of safety, law and order than their counterparts in Los Angeles or Chicago.”Abrams took particular pride in the continued high morale and effectiveness of U.S. troops even as their numbers dwindled. He greatly resented the misleading media stories about rampant problems regarding drugs and race relations, and pointed to surveys showing that such problems among soldiers in Vietnam were significantly less than among service personnel serving elsewhere in the world and markedly less than among comparable populations in the United States.Abrams was also at pains to debunk the media myth that the Vietnam War was largely fought by draftees from the underclass. Of the 2.6 million men who served in the Vietnam theatre fully two thirds were volunteers and demographically almost a perfect reflection of the U.S. population as a whole. Surveys taken at the time and even twenty years later after the war had been lost showed, that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly took pride in their service and regarded their mission as an important cause.By 1972 Abrams command was down to a mere 49,000 soldiers. He wryly noted that it was the first time an American army had gone home and left its commander behind.In contrast South Vietnam had 1.1 million men under arms. In another major departure from the Westmoreland era Abrams gave high priority to seeing that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) received high quality equipment and training.The dramatically improved ARVN fighting qualities and their ability to hold their own against North Vietnamese regulars was shown clearly in the two largest set piece battles of the entire war. The first –Lam Son 719- in the spring of 1971 saw tens of thousands of ARVN troops entering the Laotian panhandle unaccompanied by any U.S. ground personnel to interdict a major North Vietnamese offensive aimed at the South. At the height of the battle the two armies had over 100,000 men in the field. The ARVN was severely mauled but the losses sustained by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were so severe that they were unable to launch any further offensive activity for the remainder of 1971.The second major battle was the Easter offensive of 1972 which the NVA launched directly across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Vietnam. This proved to be an even more devastating defeat for the NVA which suffered over 100,000 casualties-about 40,000 killed – and lost over half its tanks and artillery. These losses were so severe that the NVA was unable to launch another major offensive for three years, and also led to the removal of the NVA’s legendary commander General Vo Nguyen Giap.While the might of U.S. air power-from helicopters to B-52 bombers- was a critical difference maker for ARVN, these troops again and again showed themselves in combat to be as tough and tenacious as their enemy.While the focus of A Better War is on events in Vietnam, the book like the war itself unfolds against the critical backdrop of the political situation in the United States and the ongoing peace negotiations in Paris.By the end of 1972 Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy had achieved a remarkable level of success. Ninety percent of the 543,000 American troops serving when he took office had been withdrawn from Vietnam; their combat role successfully taken over by ARVN troops. Vietnam had been pacified, the government of President Thieu enjoyed wide popular support, and had shown it was capable of defending itself against North Vietnamese aggression.In giving Nixon a landslide re-election victory over Democrat George Mc Govern the American people affirmed their support for the former’s approach to ending the war on honorable terms.Absolutely essential to sustaining the success of “Vietnamization” was America’s determination to continue strong logistical and financial support for South Vietnam much as we had done for South Korea.When North Vietnam withdrew from the Paris peace negotiations in December 1972, Nixon demonstrated such determination by ordering resumed B-52 bombing of rail yards, marshalling areas, petroleum storage facilities, missile storage sites, docks and warehouses in the Hanoi- Haiphong area. North Vietnam’s official history- which Sorley utilized extensively- conceded that “Nixon proved extremely obstinate and reckless, and did things Johnson never dared to do”.After eleven days bombing Hanoi reversed their bargaining position and on December 28th announced they would return to the peace talks.Describing what he called the “ultimate irony” historian George Herring stated that “the U.S. position in South Vietnam was stronger at the end of 1972 than at any previous point in the war.” Respected Vietnam authority Sir Robert Thompson said that the U.S. at this point could have dictated peace terms and that “the war could have been won, in that a real and enforceable peace could have been obtained”. He further added “In my view, on December 30, 1972, after eleven days of those B-52 attacks on the Hanoi area, you had won the war. It was over!”So, if the “unwinnable” war had been won- confirmed by the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on January 27, 1973- how was “defeat snatched from the jaws of victory?”Sorley answers this question persuasively by using the words of North Vietnamese leaders as found in their extensive memoirs and official histories. Ever since the U.S. domestic upheavals of 1968 North Vietnam’s leadership saw U.S. political turmoil as their best hope of victory. NVA Colonel Bui Tin wrote how “Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American anti-war movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former aAttorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” The North Vietnamese were also keenly aware of the Democratic controlled Congress’ visceral antipathy toward Richard Nixon, a sentiment strongly shared by American media and intellectuals.Though all American troops were gone soon after the signing of the Peace Accords, and the NVA – in violation of the Accords- almost immediately began launching attacks, the South Vietnamese more than held their own. As U.S. observer Major General Ira Hunt reported “for about two years (1973-74) the ARVN were cleaning their clocks. The South Vietnamese were giving more than they were getting, there’s no question about it. But when we pulled the plug logistically there was no way they could carry on.”And “pull the plug “ was exactly what the Democratic Congress did in rapidly escalating budget cuts during the same two year period until by early 1975 all support- from air power to money- was completely cut off- all this at the very same time that both Russia and China were dramatically increasing their support and supply for North Vietnam.The Democrats ability to do this so completely was greatly facilitated by the political destruction of Richard Nixon by the Watergate scandal of 1973-74. As the NVA’s Colonel Bui Tin observed, the resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 was final proof to North Vietnam’s leaders that they would win the war.Though ARVN fought valiantly in the final six months of the war, at the end many of their troops were reduced to having to purchase their own bullets and grenades, while their enemy bombarded them with a limitless supply of artillery shells made in Russia and China. This led Sir Robert Thompson to observe “that perhaps the major lesson of the Vietnam War is: do not rely on the United States as an ally.”The title of Sorley’s book comes from an observation made in Saigon in 1969 by the New Yorker correspondent Robert Shaplen: “You know its too bad. Abrams is very good. He deserves a better war.” Many years after the war ended someone reminded the eldest of Abram’s three sons –all army officers- of Shaplen’s remark. Without hesitation young Creighton replied “He didn’t see it that way. He thought the Vietnamese were worth it.”Among other things Sorley’s superb book is a rumination on the element of chance in history. What if the general LBJ selected in 1964 was Abrams not Westmoreland. What if Abrams had successfully pursued his preferred strategy in the four years prior to 1968 when the American people, the Congress, the Democratic Party, and even the media supported the war rather the four years after 1968 when all of the above had essentially given up.How different might the outcome have been for a still polarized American Society? How different for the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam, or the 275,000 ARVN killed in action, the 465,000 dead civilians, the 65,000 executed by their liberators, the 250,000 who perished in the brutal “re-education camps”, or the 2,000,000 who became refugees?When another great war hung in the balance Winston Churchill memorably observed that “the terrible ifs accumulate.” America today is still haunted by the terrible ifs of Vietnam.______________________________________________________________________William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissior. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and Human Events.Note: A Better War is available in paperback from Amazon. com